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1st February 2018 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Buhai builds two shot barrier

Ashleigh Buhai remains on course for a wire-to-wire victory in the Joburg Ladies Open after a two-under-par 70 moved her within touching distance of an eighth Sunshine Ladies Tour title at Modderfontein Golf Club on Thursday.

“Obviously I’m happy with the position I’m in; anytime you go into a final round leading it’s a good place to be;” said Buhai, who leads by two on six under 138 from Lauren Taylor and is six strokes clear from a four-way tie for third.

“I didn’t hit it as close as I did in the first round, but at the same time, the conditions were a little trickier. We had a two-hour delayed start and the course was quite wet and then the wind came up on the back nine and was really swirling.”

Taylor from England – a joint runner-up in 2017 – returned a 70, while Nobuhle Dlamini fired five straight birdies from the 10th to record the low round of the day.

A sublime five-under 67 moved the big-hitting Swazi golfer to level par alongside Carrie Park from South Korea, Swiss amateur Azelia Meichtry and another English talent, Hayley Davis.

Buhai began the second round with a one shot lead and kept the advantage as both players birdied the opening par five.

The 28-year-old Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golfer countered soft drops at three and six with birdies at four and eight as Taylor picked up another gain at six and Buhai led by two at the turn. The English golfer birdied 10 but gave the shot back with a bogey at 18 and Buhai birdied 17 to edge two shots clear.

“Almost every hole down the back nine was into the wind and it was tricky, but overall I played steady and stayed patient,” said Buhai. “I made eight pars down the back nine and sometimes those are bigger than birdie putts, especially in conditions like these.”

In 2017, Buhai racked up a hat-trick of victories in 2017 and walked away with the lion’s share of the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies that launched a career-best season on the LPGA Tour.

Victory after a runner-up finish in last week’s Canon Ladies Tshwane Open could leave her in a strong position on the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit to challenge for the R100 000 bonus at the end of the season.

“If I go with the same game plan and I trust my swing, I’m in a good position to win,” said Buhai. “I’m feeling my lines pretty good and I’ve felt this week that the game is starting to feel like it did at the end of last season. I just need to get my confidence up and it would be nice a few more birdie putts dropped in the final round.

“I’m leaving next week to play the LPGA Tour in Australia, Thailand and Singapore, so I’ll be missing three events at home. A win tomorrow would be great. It would be nice to get the maximum points on offer and still be in a strong position when I come back to play the Investec South African Open.”